What Will Happen to Harold?

He lives in one of the worst sections of Philadelphia. His father is in prison. He’s washed out of two schools. He has ADHD. He’s been caught stealing. He gets into fights. Child advocates say this is a crucial time to turn his life around, before it’s too late. He’s 11 years old.

“It’s good,” he says.
“No,” he admits.
A minute later, he breaks the silence and says, “I got suspended last week.”
What happened?
“Kid was talking about my family,” he says. “I got angry.”
The kid didn’t know his family. He was just messing with Harold. According to Harold, both boys got suspended for a day.
Harold clambers up a small set of steps to sit on the porch. Soon, his littlest cousin will arrive. He’ll take her back to his old house for a while, to see his Grandmom and Pop-Pop. And when his mom gets off work, she’ll bring him and the other kids back here. Their days are long. With his dad in prison, they’ll be on their own for a while.
Harold and his father have begun to exchange letters.
“He wrote me,” says Harold. “He asked, ‘H-how are you? Are yo-ou doing better?’”
Harold wrote back and told his father he is doing better. He told his father, just a few days after his suspension, that he is “doing good.”
His breath clouding in the cold air, Harold stands up every few minutes and looks down the street to see if his cousin’s bus has arrived. When it does, he waves to her. She’s six years old and tater-tot small, with colorful braids and a radiant smile. In a few minutes, she’ll tease him. “Harold’s in trouble,” she’ll say, then correct herself, because Harold isn’t in trouble right now. “Harold,” she says mischievously, “gets in trouble.”
Harold doesn’t respond. In fact, though he has clearly heard his cousin, his face doesn’t betray any emotion at all.
“Button your jacket,” he says.
He helps pull the hood of her coat over her head. They start walking. And when it’s time to cross the street, he reaches down to her, and he holds her hand.